Jacobs CIO and CEO partner on strategic agenda

Craig Martin -- How do IT leaders get a seat at the table? It's a combination of two things. One, the organization has to be willing to give you a seat. And then the person, whether it's the CIO or the head of HR or any other function, has to step in and fill that seat and show not only the technical knowledge but also the judgment and ­business sense that goes with that role.

You also have to be willing to take on a challenge that's unfamiliar and grow as a business person.

So, for example, Cora has led due diligence efforts for us. As we're looking to acquire companies, she'll be the leader in the process of making decisions about that company.

Cora Carmody -- When Craig first asked me to lead a due diligence effort, I got a deer-in-the-headlights look. I'd never done the IT portion of due diligence, let alone the whole due diligence. But I assembled a team that had experience with these investigations, and we explored the risk in the target business from every angle--not just the IT systems, but their customers, past contracts, insurance and HR. The acquisition really came alive for me--how important it was that we integrate swiftly to turn that talent loose in a new environment and take advantage of the new markets.

Martin -- It's that business sense I'm looking for, not the technical knowledge. That's part of being a successful partner for the CEO. Dealing effectively with the CEO's agenda has a lot to do with helping to set the agenda. It isn't effective for the CEO to impose his agenda on IT. It may be possible for IT to execute that agenda, but I think the agenda itself will be suboptimal. And that's not the ideal relationship between the two functions.

Carmody -- It has to be interactive. If I'm just going to take what you say, respond, "Yes, sir," and implement it, you're not going to get the full value of the partnership.

Martin -- And the CEO should want to engage in IT decisions. I often hear about CEOs who are technology-adverse, and I think they're missing an important opportunity to understand it personally and have a feel for the possibilities.

Carmody -- One of the more avant-garde things we've done is divest ourselves of wireless devices; employees bring their own. That was Craig's idea.

Martin -- If a CEO is interested in becoming more technology-friendly and exploring possibilities like that, it's a little bit like anything else--just take a chance. Pick a technology and go out and play with it.

As told to CIO Executive Council VP Rick Pastore. To view a three-part video ­interview with Jacobs' CEO and CIO, visit www.enterprisecioforum.com.

This story, "Jacobs CIO and CEO partner on strategic agenda" was originally published by CIO.

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